For the second story, I owe a major debt of gratitude to the creators of the anime Shoujo Kakumei Utena for their lovely reinterpretation of fairy tale tropes
Jonathan had spent hours on the road, driving the truck home from Metropolis. What happened was done and couldn't be undone. He leaned his head against the steering wheel, feeling drained. Martha is never going to forgive me, he thought. And I can't blame her. He had been in the truck for almost an hour, afraid to go in and face her and crush her hopes.
He finally got out of the truck and walked towards the house. The light was on in the kitchen. He knew that she would be waiting for him. The months that had past and the miscarriage had taken a major toll on her. She looked years older and crushed, a wisp of the energetic and warm woman that she had been. Her eyes were dull and her mind far away, her body just going through the motions. She would pore over the newspaper articles, looking for signs of him even though they were invariably bad. He had told her that he was going to Metropolis to bring Clark back. And he had kept that promise as best he could.
As he walked towards the house, he felt that each step was harder than the last. Even with hours to think about what to say, he couldn't find the words that could make things any easier, less unpleasant. He stood before the door, hesitating. He took in a deep breath, unlocked the door and walked in.
Martha had been at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. She looked up, put her cup down and stood up. "Jonathan?"
Jonathan slumped into a chair and closed his eyes. He was tired, so very tired and what he had to tell her was so very hard. "I brought Clark home."
"Well . . . where is he? Why isn't he coming in?" said Martha.
"He's . . . he's in the back of the truck, under the tarp."
"What? Why didn't you bring him in?"
Jonathan opened his eyes. "Martha . . . I . . . Clark didn't want to come home."
Martha gasped. "What are you saying?" She looked at him, a frown that spoke of a mother's intense desire not to comprehend the true meaning of his words. She ran out of the kitchen and out of the house, not even bothering to shut the door behind her in her haste.
Jonathan had his head down on the table but he could hear her cry out, "Clark! Clark!" as she ran towards the truck. There was a moment of silence that made him tremble. Then he heard a moan that started low than turned into a scream of denial, pain, rage. He knew that she was looking at their dead son dressed in clothes as fancy as the ones he had worn the last time he had worn that class ring. That she understood why Clark wasn't moving and that the bullet that had gone through Clark's heart was no ordinary bullet. It was a bullet that he had tipped with kryptonite, a bullet that he had aimed and shot at their child.
He could hear her sobbing and wailing all the way to the house. The second she stepped into the house, she yelled, "How could you kill our child, Jonathan? How could you do that? You promised to bring him home."
Jonathan stood up and saw that she was crying and her teeth were gritted. "He didn't want to come home, Martha. I went down to the caves but Jor-El refused to help me. I couldn't just let him stay in Metropolis. I saw him rob that bank, Martha. He blew up a police car . . . People were hurt. That's not our son. That's not how we raised him." Jonathan said, his voice choking as he tried to make Martha see. "Nobody died this time but . . . it was just a matter of time."
"Don't you . . . talk to me, Jonathan Kent! I can't even look at you! You killed my baby! My baby's dead!" She started flailing her fists at Jonathan, who grabbed her wrists. "You said you'd bring him back. You lied to me! You planned this all along and you lied to me! You should've taken me with you!"
"Martha, please calm down! This was the last thing I ever wanted to do."
"Calm down?! You murderer! I don't see how you dared to come home after what you've done!" she raged. She pulled her wrists out of his grasp and ran to the bedroom.
After he heard her slamming the door, Jonathan thought, And she doesn't even know what I said to drive him away in the first place, he thought.
2. The True Story of Psyche
Once upon a time, she had dreamed of being the princess in a castle far, far away. Those days were a long, long time ago.
It had started out like a fairytale or like some Greek myth that Lex liked to talk about. Clark had promised to protect her from all the monsters that kept trying to hurt her. He had told her that he would take her so far away from them that they could never reach her. He even said that he would tell her everything, all his secrets. He asked that in return that she would be his forever. Of course, she had agreed readily. It was everything that a high school girl could want.
The secret was revealed and she was taken to the castle. For days, she had wandered through the halls and wondered at the many seemingly magical things it held. However, after a while, she missed the people back in Smallville. "So when do we go back?" she said cheerily.
That was her first inkling that something was wrong. "Yes, go back . . . to Smallville."
He smiled at her. "I promised you that I would keep you out of reach of everyone who'd want to hurt you, remember? Nobody knows that you are here so nobody can find you to hurt you. This Fortress of Solitude is not only unable to be detected by Earth, it has a defense system that not even the government could breach."
She scrunched her face up in annoyance. "Clark, I want to go home."
His smile got a bit tighter. "I'm sorry but I can't do that. I told you my secret, remember. If I took you back, it would be very dangerous for the both of us. Besides, I thought you said you hated Smallville. That you couldn't wait to get out."
"Yes, but I was thinking of Metropolis or Paris . . ."
"I don't think either of those places are safe, either. I know what Metropolis is like. I doubt Paris is any better."
Flashbacks of cocoons, plastic transparent boxes and images of childhood friends who came back from the dead flashed in her mind. "Oh, come on, Clark, don't be like that."
"Be like what?"
"Be like all those other people who wanted to keep me prisoner."
"I'm not like them. I'm keeping you safe."
Fear hit her like a tsunami. "Clark, I want to go home. Now!"
He stood there, looking at her uncomprehending and silently. She stomped off and told the AI to show her the way out, which it did. The door opened to reveal a vast field of white snow that went all the way to the horizon. A blast of sub-zero wind struck her face like a slap. It was only then she realized how far away Kansas was and how hard it would be to get back home without his help.
"I told you we're pretty far north," he said.
"How far north?"
"Like near the North Pole."
She begged, cajoled, cried and threatened him but he refused to take her back home. She had wanted the secret and now she knew everything. She had everything she had ever wanted from him, wasn't that enough? Back home, there was dangerous freaks who wanted to do nothing but kill and rape her. It was the duty of a knight to keep his princess safe, right?
That night in her bedroom, all she think about was how much she suddenly missed Chloe, her Aunt Nell, riding in the fields and even making the stupid coffee drinks people ordered. She had bitched about them and taken them for granted but now she would take them all back in a second if it meant that she was back in Smallville. I'll convince Clark he's wrong, that it's best for me to return. He does love me, right?
Sadly for her, love meant that Clark thought he was doing this all for her own good. After all, he knew better. His summer in Metropolis taught him how easy it was for people to go bad, especially him. She was safest here. There was simply nowhere else for her. Why wasn't she happy that she was now the only girl that knew everything? The only girl he had told of his own free will?
Over the months, she tried everything to get out. She smiled and tried to charm the AI into having it talk some sense into Clark. It was stubbornly loyal, however, and politely declined to help her. She had even searched the entire Fortress for something she could drink into scaring him into taking her home or something sharp enough to cause a wound so she'd have to be taken to the hospital. However, it turned out the AI was fully capable of taking care of all medical emergencies.
After months of imprisonment, she had finally been broken and it had eventually become a routine. Clark would be gone for days or weeks at a time, coming back with some extravagant gown for her to wear, which often as not were pink. He'd come home, wanting to be comforted. He'd hold her and want to be reassured, seek respite in her body. After a while, she didn't want to touch him so he'd be gone even more, which was fine with her. Even if he did come back with the smell of someone else clinging to him.
What would happen when he came back from whatever mission he had to so was that she'd eat at the same table with him and listen to him talk about what he'd seen and done. She didn't really want to but she needed to believe there was still a world out there, that Smallville and Kansas wasn't some figment of her imagination. The stories were invariably about how dangerous the outside world was and how he had to fight everyday to make things safer for everyone else. With time, the stories changed to show that two of the people he was fighting against were Lex and Chloe.
That had surprised her. She said, "Lex and Chloe are your enemies?"
Clark had given her a smile that was blinding as it was blind. "No, they are misguided. I am waiting for them to finally understand my point of view and do things my way."
Lana lost her appetite that dinner.
In her exile, the AI was kind enough to show her news of the outside world via a viewing screen. She would hear news about Clark had heroically saved the world, Metropolis or if it was a really slow news day, a cat. She lost track of time to the point that when she saw Lex running for President and Chloe was standing next to him as his wife, she simply couldn't believe how they looked. Lex actually looked pretty much the same but Chloe was definitely older looking as if she were in her late thirties, Nell's age when she had left with Dean. Lana blinked then ran to the mirror. She hadn't changed at all since the day she got here.
"Why haven't I aged?"
The machine actually paused before answering her. "It's because Kal-El doesn't want you to age. He realized that he was going to live forever so he . . ."
"Made me immortal?"
"He's a very lonely man."
Lana went into a rage. "What about me? I've been imprisoned here for decades! I haven't seen anybody BUT him all this time. You're the only other person I've talked to and you're not even real! I'm nothing but a doll to him that he keeps on the shelf. He forgets all about me until he needs me! I don't deserve this!"
It was the day that she dressed up as warmly as she could and went outside. The cold was a shock to her since the temperature inside the Fortress was always mild. She hadn't even gone even half a mile before she fainted from cold and exhaustion. She woke up to find Clark by her bedside in her bedroom, looking terrified and a little angry. "What were you doing out there? You could've died."
"Well, maybe I wanted to die!"
And for a second, it seemed like he got it. There was a look of intense shock and fear on his face. Then he disappeared, leaving her to curse and weep at her misfortune. It was weeks before he came back home. By that time, she had gone back to dull resignation.
After several months of news regarding escalation of conflict between the United States and various nations, there were simply no transmissions. No television, no radio, nothing. She asked the AI what it meant but it would not answer her. It would only say, "I believe Kal-El should be the one to tell you."
Clark came home, his suit torn and stained. "World War III happened. I've looked all over the world for survivors. Everybody's dead. It's just you and me from now on." He opened his arms to her.
Lana didn't stop screaming for days.
3. The Unforgiven
He knew that he was pushing his luck, continually lying to Lex and doing rotten things like stealing his car and saying things like that he was just like his father. But surely he didn't deserve this . . . When Lex had finally caught him in his suit trying to stop one of his schemes in Metropolis, it had obviously been the last straw. When he woke up, he was naked in a cage in some underground laboratory that might as well have been a million miles away from the sun. The walls were lined with lead so he couldn't see outside the room. Lex was there when he awoke for the first time in what would turn out to be hell.
"Lex . . ."
Lex ignored him and turned to two scientists. "Project K will consist of seeing how much the subject can endure."
The two scientists looked at each other. One of them nervously said, "Well, I do have some qualms. Suppose we accidentally kill the subject due to, uh, miscalculation . . ."
"I understand your concerns. I will personally supervise this so I will sign off on any and all procedures."
"Lex . . ." said Clark.
"I think the first thing we should get is a gag," said Lex.
From that day on, the torture had been nonstop. Lex had once starved him for a month and had withheld water until his tongue felt like sandpaper. He was once kept awake for an entire week to the point that he very nearly lost his mind. In one experiment, he had been stuck in a chamber where he was subjected to vacuum conditions. The chamber was later pumped so it had atmospheric pressures that were hundreds of times sea level. Chemical agents like mustard gas and viral agents like anthrax were used against him. Various venoms from poisonous snakes and bugs were injected into him. He was made to suffer before they moved the Kryptonite far away enough so he could recover.
They forced him underwater to see if he could drown then heated the water to boiling then chilled so it froze around him. Acids and bases in concentrations lethal to humans were used on him. Molten metal was poured on him. Enough electricity to power a city was used to see if it would faze him the least.
As time went on, the "experiments" became more and more savage. He would be cut and chemical salts would be literally rubbed into his wounds. Once Lex had drilled holes into his skull just to see how many it would take to kill him. The answer had been seven. He was dragged by a chain behind one of Lex's sports cars. Once Lex had even gone as far as to order the scientists to extract all his teeth then made him literally eat shit. His jaws were infected and allowed to fester for days before Lex allowed new teeth to grow in. Skin grafts of various animals were forced on him and it was painful to have his immune system violently reject them. Only Lex taking the Kryptonite far enough away for his healing abilities to work had saved his life. All this and Lex showed no sign of pity for him. Blood and tissue samples were taken from him on an almost daily basis.
It was only after three years of this that the pace of "experimentation" slackened. After a while, the nutritional porridge he was given was replaced by actual food. He could scarcely believe it. After several weeks of this, he was knocked unconscious by a dart that had an anesthesia that actually worked on him and woke up not only cleaned up as he was weekly but groomed. He had even been given clothes. They were flimsy and consisted only of a vest and shorts but even these made him feel more like a person.
One day, Lex came in and looked at him intensely with a look that wasn't just hatred for once. "Once I would've given you the world if you had asked me to." That was the first thing he had said that wasn't an insult or a command in years.
"I'd be happy with my freedom."
Lex smiled bitterly. "And the first thing you'd do with your freedom? I know that I would kill me if I were you. Or would you simply go back to getting in the way of my plans again?"
"Then why have you decided to stop hurting me?"
Lex swallowed and said, "It's not for your sake . . . It's for his. I couldn't go on hurting someone that reminded me of him. I figured you should know." Lex took a photo out of his wallet and threw it into the cage from a safe distance.
Clark saw a picture of gold-skinned young child that had brown hair with reddish highlights, blue eyes and a big wide smile. "Who . . . Did you clone me?"
"He's not a clone."
"But he looks like . . . Oh, my God, Lex, is he . . . That's impossible." The child looked like himself but he also looked like . . .
"His name is Julian, after my brother."
"You're not going to hurt him, are you?"
"No, of course not. He's my son, too. I even found a woman to be a good mother to him. I'm going to give him everything that he could ever want."
"Why? Why do this? I mean this child from the both of us . . ."
"Because . . . Because I used to dream that this was something we could've done together," Lex said before getting up and leaving the room.
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